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May 07, 2009

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Bill Crawford

Michael,

Lots to agree with here. Although sometimes these ideas are presented as new, they have been reflected in some strains of Reformed thinking for decades. See A Hoekema's The Bible and the Future and his bibliography. Also, R Alcorn's Heaven emphasizes the physicality of the new heavens and earth over against the over-spiritualized views he calls "Chrisyo-platonism" - a disparaging of the physical traced back to neo-Platonism. (Alcorn's book is included in the bibliography of Tom Wright's book on eschatology.)

Michael W. Kruse

I don't thing Wright would claim they are new but they are quite new to a great many people in the pews. I think few pastors in Mainline churches preach or teach on eschatology because they know such a diversity of passionately held views are present in their congregations. The result is widespread ignorance or simply buying into the latest fad.

I have Alcorn's book but haven't read. I'm certainly familiar with Tom Wright's stuff. Craig Hill is someone else I have appreciated.

codepoke

WooHoo! It's so nice to read a blog post about the future, and just agree with everything. Thank you.

The main thing I'd like to see added to this subject is a discussion of how important it is. The degree of responsibility we feel to our culture and the degree of hope we feel in addressing it can be crippled by the "Left Behind" mindset. Thank you for joining ahead. :-)

Michael W. Kruse

"WooHoo!"

That is what I was saying as read Wright.

"The degree of responsibility we feel to our culture and the degree of hope we feel in addressing it can be crippled by the "Left Behind" mindset."

Amen!

brad clay

But, I don't want to give up Larry Norman's song, "I wish we'd all been ready."

Michael W. Kruse

LOL

I know, I know. Such a great song with such bad theology. I still have Larry on my IPod.

Dana Ames

I think NTW's title "Surprised by Hope" says a lot. There isn't much hope in the Rapture scenario, in spite of what is claimed...

Brings to mind three encounters in the last few months. One: I was in the grocery store talking to a woman (educated, cultured, well read, practical) with whom I attended church locally more than 15 years ago. It was a friendly conversation for a while... She started raving about the Precepts bible study, about how they're in Revelation and it's so prophetic, etc. etc.... I said I thought Revelation was not a time line, but rather written to encourage Christians who were undergoing severe persecution. A look of horror crossed her face, and she could not flee from me fast enough- did not even say "Bye, nice seeing you..." It was totally surreal.

Two: At an anniversary dinner for some Christian friends, the guest seated next to me (educated, cultured, well-read- and a Precepts teacher, it turns out- not to rag on them, but...) asked about my Christianity. I told her I was in the process of becoming Orthodox. She asked about their view of Revelation. I said they hold it to be inspired scripture, but they do not base any dogma upon it, so it is never read in the liturgy. "No Rapture?" she said. "Nope." I replied. A puzzled look of crossed her face. She was more polite when we left- wished for God's blessing on me.

Three: When I told my LCMS/generic Baptist hairdresser (educated, cultured, practical) I was becoming Orthodox, the first thing she asked was what was the O. teaching on The End Times. She actually liked my description :)

Having been able to listen to CW in person in small and large groups at the pastors' conf in Feb., I can attest that he is also a genuinely kind, modest and open person- has an air of holiness about him, but not stuffy in the least. His N. Irish brogue doesn't hurt his presentation, either :)

Dana

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks Dana. The absence of sound teaching about eschatology has left the field open for all sorts of unfortunate thinking to become normalized.

I really appreciate Wright's ability to communicate so concisely and precisely. Unlike many who I've read on these topics, I don't find myself wrestling with what he "really means." I'd love to hear him in person some day.

RonMck

Michael

I generally agree with your conclusions but have a few quibbles around the edges.

“Last Days” You do not go far enough, as two thousand plus years of last days do not make sense. After studying the scriptures in detail, I have concluded that the expression actually refers to the period between the crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem. It actually describes the “last days of the Jewish system”. I explain this in more detail at Last Days.

“Millenium” I agree that the millennium refers to the period between Jesus first and second coming, but you are wrong in your brackets to call this amillennial. Post millennial also fits with this definition. The problem with the amillenial approach is that it is quite negative about what God can achiever prior to the second coming. The post milliennial approach is more positive, when it emphases the work of the Holy Spirit, but it is that is has usually degenerated into an emphasis on political power, which is nasty. Therefore, I prefer to avoid the concept of Millenium all together.

However we do have to address the issue of the promises that the Holy Spirit will advance the Kingdom of God. If we shunt all the scriptural promises to after the second coming, we are no better than the dispensationalists.

“Rapture” I think that we have to be quite careful about saying what happens at the end of the age. It is true that the New Jerusalem comes down to earth from heaven, but Peter says that "the heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare." I do not know where I want to be when that happens: in the air, or still down here? Actually we are talking about a significant change to the nature of reality, so I do not think that we can be too precise about what actually happens.

“Israel” The land of Israel does not have any spiritual significance, because the Holy Spirit is anywhere. However, there are prophecies about the people of Israel returning the their land, that we have to fit in somewhere. This is not fulfilled in the current attempts to take the land by force, but happens after an outpouring of the Holy Spirit (more at Israel).

A final questions remains. Jesus and Peter talked about Times and Seasons. Do you have any left? What spiritual transitions take place, between the first and second coming? Are we just making the best of a bad job until Jesus returns.

Matt S.

"Land of Israel" - gotta push back on that one - I don't think Zionism is the answer, but I think place is important to God and that there is yet to come some expression of God's kingdom that gives significance to the place where God has acted so significantly in the past.

Travis Greene

You know, even after finally dropping Left Behind-style dispensationalism thanks to N.T. Wright and others, that interpretation of the "left behind" verses never occurred to me! "One is taken, and the other left"...and what makes us think being taken is a good thing? Isn't that what we usually call kidnapping?

I do wonder about this statement: "This doesn’t make Jesus or his followers mistaken." It doesn't actually bother me to think that Paul, or even Jesus, were wrong about how soon the final judgment would be. Jesus even says he doesn't know.

The problem is considering how much of Christian ethics in Scripture is based in some degree on the idea that the consummation of God's kingdom was imminent. Paul's advice not to marry, for instance.

Michael W. Kruse

Ron

““Last Days” You do not go far enough, …”

Good point. Last days was the time between Christ coming and 70 C. E. But I think once it dawned on the church that the final judgment is yet to come lead to a new understanding that “last days” was going to be longer than had first been understood.

“…Post millennial also fits with this definition. The problem with the amillenial approach is that it is quite negative about what God can achiever prior to the second coming. …”

The “amillennial” designation was actually Wright’s. I see how this could be called post-millennial. While some versions of amillennialism have been somewhat negative, I’m not sure it is inherent.

As to the 2 Peter passage, Wright will come to that in the last chapter. I think if you look at 1 Peter 1:7 you will see the imagery of passing through the refiners fire. 2 Peter 3:5-6 raise the issue of creation and a purifying (not annihilation) flood. What appears in verse 7 and following seems to be a parallel depiction of fiery purification, stated in apocalyptic hyperbolic metaphor, not a literal annihilation of all that exists. The idea is radical purification.

Anyway, I won’t jump too far ahead. Two more chapters to cover … next installment is probably on Tuesday.

Michael W. Kruse

Matt

"...that gives significance to the place where God has acted so significantly in the past."

I'd need some New Testament evidence that the place will have significance.

Michael W. Kruse

Travis

The point I wanted to make was that the information they had was incomplete. In one sense they were mistaken in assuming final judgment would come within the lifetime. That judgment didn't happen then doesn't mean they were mistaken about one coming. I should have been more specific.

I think you are right, possibly, about some of Paul's advice.

RonMck

Michael
The final judgment is the last day, not the last days.

Michael W. Kruse

Ron

I'm not sure what you mean. I agree that the final judgment is the last day.

A) Post-resurrection. Jesus return, vindication, and final judgment to come in one life time. Last days = Span from then until Jesus Returns.

B) Jerusalem destroyed 70 C. E. Jesus vindicated but return and final judgment not forthcoming. Last days = Span that has already elapsed since Jesus first coming and until his return and final judgment.

I haven't examined every instance of "last days" in the NT but I suspect something close to this is what was meant. I'd need to do some digging of my own to fully affirm Wright's claim.

RonMck

You need to look at the scriptures. Most of them refered to the author living in the last days. Given that they wrote pre-AD70. The last days have nothing to do with the final judgment. They refer to the last days of the Jewish system.

Michael W. Kruse

So what would you call the time from 70 to the final judgment?

RonMck

The scriptures do not have one name for the period from 70 to final jusgment, just like there was not one season from creation to crucifixion. There are several seasons between ad 70 and the last day. One is the Times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). Another is the Times of Fulfilment(Eph 1:9,10). Another is the Little Season (Rev 20:3). There are also some epochal events in between (not the rapture), such as Fullnes of Israel (Rom 11:12). I have tried to fit these together at http://www.kingwatch.co.nz/Times_Seasons/a_Times_and_Seasons.htm.

Travis Greene

Ron,

Beware of charts. I don't think Scripture is meant to give us a timeline of world history. Just a starting point, and end point, and the promise that God is at work the whole way.

RonMck

Travis
Charts are dangerous, but your statement is also dangerous. Scriptures do the give the starting point, and end point, but they give much more than “the promise that God is at work the whole way” The actually tell us something about the way that God will work. We do not have a time line, but we do have some descriptions of what he will do. We need to understand what we have been given. We should not ignore it because it is hard.

Most Christians (who has escaped dispensationalism) believe two things.
1. The final judgment is getting close.
2. Things will carry on as they always have till then.

These beliefs have two implications.
1. We are well through history on earth. Not much more is going to happen.
2. We have seen the best that the Holy Spirit can do.

These hidden, but pervasive assumptions contribute to a lack of expectation among believers, but they need to be tested.

The scriptures tell us about some great things that God is going to do. The usual approach is to push them to after the second coming, but there is no good reason for doing that. We should be grappling more with how and when these thing will happen and thinking more about how God will work. If we just expect more of the same as we have had, that is what we will get.

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